Experimental Evidence on the Productivity Effects of Generative Artificial Intelligence

We examine the productivity effects of a generative artificial intelligence technology—the assistive chatbot ChatGPT—in the context of mid-level professional writing tasks. In a preregistered online experiment, we assign occupation-specific, incentivized writing tasks to 444 college-educated professionals, and randomly expose half of them to ChatGPT. Our results show that ChatGPT substantially raises average productivity: time taken decreases by 0.8 SDs and output quality rises by 0.4 SDs. Inequality between workers decreases, as ChatGPT compresses the productivity distribution by benefiting low-ability workers more. ChatGPT mostly substitutes for worker effort rather than complementing worker skills, and restructures tasks towards idea-generation and editing and away from rough-drafting. Exposure to ChatGPT increases job satisfaction and self-efficacy and heightens both concern and excitement about automation technologies.